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A mammoth, hard-fought and joyful milestone. That’s how the South African Football Players Union (SAFPU) describes its latest achievement: the signing of the collective bargaining agreement with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) on the 28th of March.

 

‘This was a historic moment because this was the first CBA signed in Africa’, says Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, general secretary of SAFPU and board member of FIFPro Division Africa.

 

‘The road that led to the CBA started way back in 1997, and has indeed been a long, at times treacherous road.’

 

It took SAFPU a long time to convince the Premier Soccer League of the importance of a CBA. ‘Recently the PSL through its chairman Irvin Khoza was elected to serve on the World League Association (WLA). Upon accepting the position as a WLA board member, Khoza said “The Premier Soccer League's involvement in the formation of a global structure of premier division clubs is an indication that the local league is regarded in high esteem…  [This appointment] will encourage us to redouble our efforts in everything we do”. Within 5 days of the appointment to the WLA, the PSL finally signed the CBA with SAFPU that took over 15 years to negotiate!’

 

Among others, the CBA introduces a Standard Professional Contract (SPC) that players and teams must sign. This contract will protect both parties and ensure that all parties to the agreement are happy at all times, in line with the Labour Relations Act of South Africa, and FIFPro, South African FA, FIFA and NSL rules.

 

The CBA requires SAFPU to properly inform and educate professional footballers as to the terms of the CBA and the SPC as well as to the NSL rules specifically and football rules generally and in particular as to discipline under the football rules.

 

Similarly, the CBA makes it mandatory for the teams to conduct their affairs in a professional manner and in line with the Labour Relations Act of South Africa, NSL rules, SAFA and FIFA statutes.

 

Besides the joy and pride they take in their achievement, SAFPU realizes that the signing of the CBA is not more than another step in defending the rights of professional footballers in South Africa. Gaoshubelwe: ‘The CBA puts obligations on SAFPU to do things differently so that going forward, we can serve our members better.’

 

‘The CBA allows us to have access to members at their workplace, something which has proven a bit difficult in the past. It is not going to be easy because the clubs do not make it easy for the players to join the union. Yet when things go awry with the players, everybody including the clubs blame SAFPU for not doing enough for the players. We are constantly under attack from the media for being moribund and not attending to the needs of the players, which is unfair criticism. We are constantly dealing with agents or business managers of the players who actively discourage the players they represent from joining SAFPU.’

 

‘We as SAFPU are the first to admit that there is a room for improvement in making SAFPU one of the best in the business. We are looking at ways in which we can better serve the needs of our current and future members.’

 

‘In June 2012, we will be going to our elective congress where we are going to discuss new ways of doing our work. The pinnacle of ideas we have is to professionalize SAFPU, to strengthen relations with the PSL and SAFA, and to educate our members on their rights so that they understand the strength of the collective power they provide to SAFPU. We want the professional players to become contributors and active participants in deciding their fate. We will remain strong as long as our members remain strong.’

 

Gaoshubelwe: ‘We have to do things differently, and as SAFPU, we will be equal to the task.’